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Blending into the Religious Landscape: The Yoginīs in Benares

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Abstract This study looks at the past and present of Yoginī worship in Benares (Vārāṇasī, Kāśī). Textual sources from the twelfth century seem to indicate that the important religious center on the Ganges had a hypaethral sanctuary dedicated to this group of tantric goddesses at the beginning of the second millennium. The somewhat later Kāśīkhaṇḍa, the most important hymnic text on the mythology and religious topography of the city, can be read as describing and at the same time facilitating the gradual blending of an esoteric cult into the broader religious stream of an urban, devotionalized Śāktism. The second part of the study takes a closer look at the Cauṃsaṭhī Devī temple, the main site connected with Yoginī worship in contemporary Benares. Finally, three other places are described that local (traditional) scholars, in their publications, have indicated as Yoginī-related sites.

Affiliations: 1: Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) Department of Archaeology and Religious Studies 7491 Trondheim Norway


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